Homemade Tamales with our Delicious Carnitas’ & other variations including Vegetarian!

“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.” – Guy Fieri

Dave, the boys & I just love Mexican food. It is definitely in our top 3 ethnic foods to enjoy. Recently Dave & I visited a local Mexican restaurant and with Dave’s dinner there was a tamale. Ok, so I’d never eaten one. That is a confession, LOL. I always get either cheese enchiladas or fajitas… it’s just what I like. But after trying it, I thought, ‘That is really good!” I looked at Dave and said, “We can make these!”… And make them we did!

Wow, they are fabulous & I am sure you will enjoy them. I must admit when I was looking for recipes, it was a bit intimidating. I really thought it was going to be a lot of work, but it really wasn’t bad. It’s not any harder than making cabbage rolls. 

Don’t be dismayed if you don’t have a steamer. Dave & I figured a great way to improvise. All you’ll need is a large stock pot with a lid, a colander that will fit onto top of the pot resting in it but not submerged, and foil wrap! 

I sure hope you’ll give them a try. We made them with Dave’s incredible carnitas’ but I’m going to include some variations including a vegetarian one! Enjoy friends!

Our Favorite Recipes

Ingredients: Yields approximately 25 to 30 Tamales

To make carnita’s you will need: 

1~ 3.5 to 4 pound pork butt.

Click this LINK for recipe

Shred carnitas and save the broth for the masa dough

For Tamales: 

25 to 30 corn husks~ choose the largest ones you can from the bag

3 cups Masa Harina flour

2 ½ cups broth- Use as much of the broth as you can from the carnitas. Add water if not enough broth to equal the 2 ½ cups

If you are changing the protein up, then use the same broth as the protein you are using. 

*Vegetarian alternative- use vegetable broth. 

1 cup lard

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pink Himaylean salt

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp garlic salt


Chicken: Take 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts and bake or boil until done; shred meat for filling

Beef: Roast a 4 to 5 pound chuck or rump roast; when done shred meat for filling

Vegetarian: Use vegetable shortening and vegetable broth

Alternatives include:

~Black beans, blackened whole kernel corn, chili’s, & queso shredded cheese~ make a black bean paste using the cheese and some sour cream.

~Diced Roma tomatoes, green onion, whole kernel corn, Queso fresco cheese crumbled, turmeric paste, and cilantro

Of course there are many other options, let me know what you will use in the comments below.

To make the masa dough:

In a bowl beat on high for 5 minutes the broth and masa harina flour; set aside for 20 minutes

While masa dough is resting:

In another bowl whip lard for about 3 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy.

In another bowl while masa dough & lard are resting, soak the corn husks in warm water; rest a small plate on top of the husks so they remain submerged.

Here are all the toppings we used!

What toppings do you like? Let me know is the comments below!

After the 20 minutes are up, blend all the spices and the lard into the masa dough until evenly blended. The consistency should be similar to smooth peanut butter.

Drain the water from the corn husks and shake excess water off; remove to a plate and set aside.

In a large stock pot, fill ⅓ way full with hot water; bring it to a boil on high heat covered. This will heat up while you are making the tamales.

In an assembly line manner line the husks, masa dough, and meat.

Take a husk and place it in the palm of your hand with the pointed side facing up, and with the curved side up. It will almost seem like a bowl; take a spoonful, about a ¼ cup of the masa dough and spread over the bottom half of the husk evenly; take about the same amount of meat and place in the center of the husk half way up like the masa dough.

Now, take the right side of the husk and fold over towards the left, then fold the left side over the folded portion, then take the pointed end and fold down to make sort of an envelope; gently compress the mixture so it is evenly distributed in the husk; set aside fold side down in a colander. Repeat the process until all your husks are filled or the colander is full. 


The water in the stock pot should be boiling or close to it; turn the fire off now.

Place the colander snugly into the pot. It should not be touching the water. 

Place the lid for the pot over the tamales in the colander.

Cover the colander with foil wrap down around the handles, being sure not to cover the pot handles. You don’t want the steam to escape as that is what will be cooking the tamales.

Turn the heat back on high and steam for 1 hour; check the water level every 20 minutes by carefully lifting the colander up out of the pot using pot holders. If more water is declining, add hot water as needed making sure the colander will not be setting in the water.

PRO TIP: I kept a second pot of water heating so when I needed to add water to the pot the tamales were cooking in, I could simply remove the colander and pour hot water in without skipping a beat!

When the tamales are done, remove the colander from the pot and place on a plate; remove the foil wrap; let set for about 15 to 20 minutes to further set up.

Check out some of the yummy sauces we used on our tamales!

Serve with refried beans and some Mexican dirty rice! 

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Added bonus: You can go to my blog at http://www.fordragonfliesandme.com to purchase my original cookbook, Lovingly Seasoned Eats and Treats. The cookbook has almost 1000 recipes on almost 500 pages! Check out the Cookbook Testimonials while you’re there!

Until next time remember to

Eat fresh, shop local & have a happy day,



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